The brilliance of the gas price inquiry

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Looks like Andrew Wilkinson laid another rotten egg; this time in relation to fuel prices.

Oh?

When gas prices spiked to $1.70 (or higher) per litre a few months ago, it triggered the NDP to convene an inquiry to ascertain the reasons why BC’s gas prices were so out of tune with the rest of the country; with an eye towards collusion if it could be discovered.

Well the report came back, and while collusion (between big oil companies) couldn’t be proven, the report did cite the virtual monopoly of only 5 companies that controlled the marketing and delivery of fuel to BC. And something about an inexplicable 13 cent extra that we’re paying in BC compared to anywhere else.

13 cents per litre extra.

That’s not ‘taxes’ either.

Taxes, while significantly higher than the rest of Canada on BC’s regional fuel prices, are probably the most transparent part of what costs go into your fuel tank. At any rate, if one is looking for blame on that file, the NDP increased the carbon tax on fuel by one penny; hardly justification for this price differential.

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Where Andrew Wilkinson has screwed up badly here is where he hitched his wagon to the narrative that the NDP’s fuel taxes are too high while simultaneously ‘blocking’ pipelines. Well the taxes, though higher, aren’t the NDP’s fault, and it was legitimate court action by first nations who have brought delays to Kinder Morgan. I’m not sure the BC Liberals want to instigate that kind of fight.

But in banging that drum, the BC Liberals have exposed big oil, though not necessarily acting in collusion, but acting like a virtual monopoly. That 13 cents per litre is a significant boost to a profit margin, now it has a political defender (at the expense of regular commuting drivers) in Andrew Wilkinson. This is not the position he wants to find himself in; defending big oil at the expense of average folks.

But there is a silver lining here.

In boosting fuel prices thanks to what can be best described as profiteering, its pushing electric vehicle sales, and its making driving less affordable (incentive not to drive); achieving a climate change goal in one fell swoop. Best thing about this? Its completely a market driven result.

Good work Andrew.

My2bits

BC Liberals find new ways to look pathetic over ride hailing

The BCUC approved the ICBC proposal on a basic insurance product for ride hailing corporations ahead of the anticipated September 16 legalization date.

John Yap

The BC Liberals found a way to complain about it. The angle? The product is too cheap and other drivers will have to subsidize ride hailing corporations as a result.

This is of course after months of belly aching over the government requiring a class 4 license for ride hailing drivers because it was an expensive barrier to earn a few extra dollars.

But this should come as no surprise from a party that likes to stand on both sides of an issue and would have attacked the NDP no matter how they handled it.

What’s really going on here? The desperate and pathetic flailing by the BC Liberals in frustration as they witness a government getting things done compared to the dithering and triangulation that Campbell and Clark were famous for.

The BC Liberals had every opportunity to enable ride hailing in the last two terms (of the 4 they served) where ride hailing corporations existed. But, no. They went as far as chasing out Uber with legal threats when they began operations without proper authorization from the gov’t.

It was only an 11:58pm conversion in the last few weeks before the 2017 election that the BC Liberals found religion on ride hailing, but even then, they misread sentiment. They still do.

In 2018, a poll discovered that while the public overwhelmingly approved of ride hailing, it wasn’t without limits. They wanted drivers to carry class 4 licenses, wanted limits to how many ride hailers could exist as nobody was looking to put *more* cars onto the already over capacity lower mainland road system.

One of the advantages of waiting as long as we have to get ride hailing off the ground is we get to see what long term trends look like in large cities like Vancouver with the advent of this click-and-ride service.

Studies show that unrestricted ride hailing services adversely affect traffic congestion. So putting a regulatory cap in place on how many may drive for ride hailing corporations would have been wise policy for those cities. Good thing it’s coming for BC.

I’m not saying that I’m in favour or opposed to ride hailing. But if we’re to have it, the drivers should at least play by the same rules we expect of cab drivers they pretend to be.

It’s a newer business model and an alternative to traditional cabbies. But it’s not the answer for traffic congestion or climate change.

Even the Green Party is on the wrong side of history here.

My2bits

Strike two, Ms May

Not everyone wants to vote Liberal or Conservative. This has been traditional fertile ground for the NDP for those left of centre folks or provides an opening for right wing competition to the conservatives.

And let’s be honest. 3rd and 4th parties want a minority parliament because that gives them the opportunity to leverage their legislative votes for concessions from the major parties. That’s how this thing works.

But. If your mapping out the campaign for one of these smaller parties, you must do so with a plan to win outright. “If [party] wins this election, we’re going to do these things that are on our agenda.”

It is unwise however to preemptively underline the handful if items you want if you’re a minority partner *prior* to the election. You could see those ideas gobbled up by a major party only to have your team made to look irrelevant, or you could trap yourself. By trap, I mean that in preemptively marking your legislative items, it might implicitly point to *one* party that you’re interested in working with, which may box your team in: you could be subject to the same opponent attacks, and you could subsequently limit how you criticize your potential partner.

Elizabeth May came out and said that if the Conservatives under Andrew Scheer were to embrace climate change and the carbon tax, she may support a Conservative minority government.

To the 65% of Canadians who would identify themselves as liberal-to-progressive and reside in the three major non-Conservative parties, you just ruled yourself off the ballot in their world.

This is a major mistake and a revealing window into the strategic chaos that Leader Elizabeth May is taking her party through.

That’s strike two.

Strike one was the hiring of political street thug Warren Kinsella as an advisor. By doing so, Elizabeth May and the Greens lost all right to claim that “we do politics differently”. No they don’t. Now they can’t.

Incidentally, as Greens are finding themselves on the defensive over this missive, they’ve gone and dug up a 10 year old story where the NDP voted to uphold a Harper budget in the fall of 2009. The narrative being, if the NDP can strategically support the conservatives, why can’t we?

The budget question at hand included improvements to EI at a time that the 08/09 meltdown had caused a major economic slowdown and job losses. The NDP used their legislative clout and votes to demand improvements for the unemployed. It delayed a premature election call; one that when it happened, reduced the Liberal Party to 20+ seats.

What the Greens have done here is different. They’ve set a price for their support *before* they have the bargaining chips in their hands. That’s a fatal mistake.

Campaign on your values, let the voters decide. When or how your party utilizes it’s influence and who they may or may not support in a minority parliament is a move left to play after voters have dealt you the cards.

Elizabeth May seems to have counted her chickens before they hatched.

My2bits

Update

Further observations: now that Elizabeth May has set the price for her support (solely environmental matters), Andrew Scheer could meet that price in theory, and also pledge to do a whole raft of socially conservative things that satisfy his base. But, technically that’d be ok since Elizabeth May already placed her chips. For her to withdraw the offer, this leaves her open to charges by Scheer that she can’t be trusted to ‘deal’, and he’d be right.

This is a disaster for the Greens.

The Greens are trying their hand at populism and its just as disingenuous as anything on the far right

unpopular opinion

I get the antipathy towards fracking; its a drilling technique fraught with risks to carbon pollution; potential groundwater contamination and seismic activity.

Its also the exclusive technique used to extract natural gas and shale oil. Now for the sake of this article, I’m not considering the environmental aspect of the Green’s argument – because at this point, it doesn’t have legal or constitutional standing.

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This however is the snippet of the Constitution Act (1982) that the Green Party hasn’t considered.

If the Green Party was to win an election outright and invoke this part of their platform, they would immediately be met with a challenge from energy producing provinces. As they should: infringing upon a clear right of a provincial government will trigger a very serious national unity crisis.

Worse, imagine the Greens playing a role in a minority government where this pillar is key to their cooperation.

While this awkward promise sits out there unchallenged by anyone in the media, Elizabeth May went on the offensive against the announced bus expansion of the Victoria regional transit service. Accusing Justin Trudeau of playing ‘lip service’ to climate change, she rips the agreement. See here.

For reference.

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Granted, some of these new buses would be powered by natural gas, the larger objective is to get more people out of their cars and into transit. The advantage is two fold: folks save fuel and pollution by taking a bus instead, and it clears up some congestion from roads and highways.

Seriously, Liz. WTF.

Look, fracking is controversial. But its also a changing science; and fracking looks different today than what it did 40 years ago when it was pumping up natural gas in BC. There’s no reason why it cannot continue to evolve.

Whether or not the Greens sentiment is right or wrong is up to you. But for them to advocate something they cannot constitutionally do will have unintended consequences.

Upon losing a Supreme Court case against the provinces who move quickly to uphold their rights under 92(a), the Greens would further strengthen the hand of pro-fossil fuel parties and may serve to elect even more conservative regimes across the country.

How does that look? See Alberta where they elected the UCP government out of a frustration to get their tar sands oil industry back on track, but are getting a hard right socially conservative administration that’s rolling back rights of LGBTQ folks ‘while they’re at it’.

There are seriously dangerous consequences to opting for a rhetorically populist party.

Update: September 15
some of the more rabid Greens cite Section 91 of the Constitution Act as license to override the provinces in their plan ban fracking.

Here’s the problem. Section 91 holds that the Federal government has the right to pass laws or regulations in areas of jurisdiction not explicitly laid out in Section 92. Well, natural resources are explicitly defined as provincial jurisdiction. We can thank in part Federal/Provincial scrap that Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program of the 1980’s where Alberta won in the Supreme Court on a related matter.

Feel free to read up on Section 91 if you wish.

So, in my opinion, the Greens are promising something they cannot deliver for the sole purpose of gaining votes.

I must add that in watching supporters of the Federal Greens demonizing the Federal NDP over the the BC NDP govt policies on natural gas. Fine I suppose if we’re going by “all is fair in love and war”, but it opens up another problem where the Greens risk another national unity collision with the provinces.

That’s very unwise.

My2bits

Update: new Green MP joins the attack on new buses for Victoria.

Green party sneaks a change into their climate change agenda while nobody* noticed.

* Almost.

The hint is #13 of their “Mission Possible” document.

Before. After.

The point is that in #13, the Green Party, as a government would compel changes that would both end subsidies to fossil fuels while simultaneously investing (taxpayer money) in new and expanded fossil fuel infrastructure in Canada.

I may not be an energy expert or the wisest political observer, but investing taxpayer dollars in an industry that is already highly profitable is still a subsidy; regardless of the edit.

There are many other concerns I have with this document, but this one jumped out at me. Makes me wonder what other sneaky changes the Greens may drop in there while nobody is looking.

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My2bits

Green Party retains the services of astute insider, Warren Kinsella

But this may not play out as you imagine.

It’s not a big secret that Warren’s leanings are clearly Liberal; whether he’s a party member or not. He was an able war-room soldier for the Chrétien gov’t and earned the grudging respect of even his opponents while he held the role.

But let’s look deeper.

There’s a perpetual civil war in the Liberal Party that’s only spilled out into the open a handful of times. The factions of the party that followed the Trudeau clan can claim to be the moderate group while the folks who generally backed Jean Chrétien are mainly the progressives of the party.

Each claim the true nature of the Federal Liberal Party. Warren is a Chrétien Liberal.

The last time the civil war blew up it was when Chrétien was being pushed out in favour of moderate darling Paul Martin.

Fast forward to this day, the progressive wing of the party is upset that moderate Justin Trudeau again dithers on progressive pledges from 2015; just like Paul Martin did.

This wasn’t necessary.

Part of the attractive authenticity of the Greens is their not-very-partisan approach to policies. For Elisabeth May and the Greens to draft in uber strategist and war-room pro Warren Kinsella, she’s turned her party into the very thing her party and activists oppose the most.

For what?

Warren does not like Justin Trudeau.

And Greens do not like Justin Trudeau either. So the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

I’m only wondering now, who is taking advantage of whom.

My2bits

Everyone calm the fuck down

The NDP is not going through some existential crisis, the political ground that’s moving is on the right and far right; and this is not a playground the NDP should dabble in. Ever.

Its worth reminding folks that Saint Jack Layton was a relative centrist in his overall philosophy; this is why he appealed to so many independents and made it possible to draft folks like Thomas Mulcair. It was Jack Layton who made a pitch to the “progressives” of the (then) freshly disemboweled PC party to come aboard. If you’re keeping up, that means appealing to folks like Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell, or “red tories”.

The left of the NDP didn’t protest much as they saw the electoral success of opening that tent further and it shocked the federal Liberals to see Jack Layton eat their lunch.

So when I hear folks complain that the NDP isn’t left enough, remember that this is how we ended up with our little putsch that dumped Mulcair after his inaugural election that saw the NDP with its second best showing ever. We weren’t left enough. So we picked Jagmeet Singh.

There is some racism that’s alive and well in Canada who won’t vote for the brown man, but then those folks aren’t the type I want my party appealing to anyway. Go vote PPC since that’s more appropriate to your hateful thinking.

But in changing from the relative centrist Mulcair in favour of Jagmeet Singh, we got a left wing party whose platform is the most progressive I’ve seen in a generation. It has a green new deal and a tax on the 1%.

Oh yes, some will say it’s not enough, and some will say it goes to far. Thing is, it’s the Greens that are saying the NDP plan doesn’t go far enough and the Liberals saying it goes to far.

Wonderful! If radical Greens say your plan isn’t radical enough and do-nothing Liberals say it goes too far, then we’re probably exactly where we need to be.

As long as the NDP doesn’t fumble around in the bigoted anti immigrant tropes that the PPC/CPC are mired into, there’s plenty of room to expand the reach of the NDP.

Liberals have revealed themselves again as the party that will say anything to get elected, while doing as few possible progressive things except as necessary to stay in office.

We’re done with this.

The neoliberal economic philosophy is how we got here. The major gaps in rich and poor, the crushing of unions, the disregard towards the environment and climate change; it’s all related. None of the other party’s are prepared to tackle the system. The NDP will.

So stop your navel gazing. Let the reactionary radicals in the Greens and PPC light their hair on fire, let the Liberals and Conservatives engage in platitudes and dithering, the NDP just needs to plow forward. We’re on the right path.

My2bits